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OSDE rule proposal aims to tie student achievement to accreditation, putting at least 85 schools/districts at risk

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — A House Administrative Rules Committee has adopted a rule proposed by the Oklahoma State Department of Education that would tie student assessment scores to accreditation, which would put at least 85 schools/districts on the chopping block.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), the “Raising Academic Standards” rule states that any school or district that has more than 50 percent of students scoring below the basic level will suffer a hard blow to its accreditation.

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The OSDE says 35 percent of Oklahoma students scored below basic in reading on state tests last year. Last year, 39 percent of Oklahoma students also performed below basic in math on state tests.

“When it comes to any type of testing, we have an accountability system in place with the Department of Education. This plan shows how we will help schools when their students fail to pass the state-mandated test. This rule automatically impacts a district’s accreditation. It’s a punishment. When it comes to testing, we need to focus on what we can do to ensure our schools receive the resources and support they need to help their students succeed,” said Katherine Bishop, president of Oklahoma Education Association.

A group of 10 House members voted on the proposed rule Tuesday and it passed 7-3, with only Democrats voting against.

“I don’t understand why we continue to let (State Superintendent Ryan Walters) write rules and then submit them to the Legislature. It has to be the other way around. We write the rules and we tell them what to do,” the representative said Marc McBride (R-Moore). “I think it’s sad that we’re taking this approach instead of talking about improvement. What can we do to improve (schools)? Instead of talking about it, we’re going to trash the accreditation. For me, this is not a good thing. We have a Department of Education that is supposed to work to improve student outcomes, without threatening schools and school districts.

Duke Public Schools is on the list of at least 85 schools/districts that could lose their current academic status.

Duke Public Schools currently serves 165 students in southwest Oklahoma. It is currently working with zero defects.

According to the 2022-2023 Oklahoma School Report Card, Duke High School received a “D” and achieved an overall performance of 45%. Duke Elementary School received a grade of “C” and finished with an overall performance of 48 percent.

“We can have classes of eight or ten students. Not every year, but within this small class, you may have students with special needs or students enrolled in an IEP. We think there needs to be some amendments and some wiggle room when it comes to special case students there,” said Duke Public Schools Superintendent Todd Ware. “It is unfair to judge students this way completely and, of course, to judge the entire district this way as well. »

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Bishop said having a smaller percentage of students in the class would instantly hurt rural districts when one or two students fail to pass the tests.

“Our schools are working towards their accreditation. They are proud of their accreditation. That’s what draws people to these communities. It’s important that when we talk about this, we don’t focus on a one-day test, on how a student is going to do to find out whether a school is accredited or not,” Bishop said.

Ware recalled a third-grade class at Duke Public Schools where it included only four students. He said if any of them failed, with this new rule it would eliminate their impairment immediately.

House Administrative Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Gerrid Kendrix, R-Altus, previously told KFOR that the idea that a school would close because of a ping on its accreditation was just a scare tactics.

“A deficiency does not put you in a bind. What this does is it raises awareness that there is a problem of some sort,” Rep. Kendrix said. “This opens up the possibility of resources coming from the State Department. »

“It can definitely give skewed results,” Ware added. “Maybe there would be a measure where we look at growth. This may be a measure of growth that we are looking at, not necessarily a baseline or a predetermined number. Watch how students grow from year to year.

Given that Duke Public Schools is currently operating with good academic performance, it would take several levels for the district to lose its accreditation entirely. Ware, however, fears what could happen if the Duke district reaches that point.

This would be detrimental to our community. It would be a disservice for something like this to push small communities like Duke and so many others in Oklahoma to potential threat or the thought of having to close.

Todd Ware, superintendent of Duke Public Schools

If Duke Public Schools closed, the closest neighboring district would be Eldorado or Altus. In either direction from Duke High School it would be an 18 minute drive.

“We serve every child who walks through our door. We don’t choose,” Ware said.

The House still must vote on OSDE’s proposed rule, which Rep. McBride hopes will happen next week.

Rep. McBride said that while he sees the need to have a “goal” for students to aim for at the end of the school year, he disagrees with how the OSDE is trying to to push schools to achieve higher test scores.

Rep. McBride said he received numerous emails from constituents asking him to reject the rule.

This would be a no vote for my constituents in Moore, Oklahoma and across the state.

Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore

News 4 asked Rep. McBride if all of OSDE’s proposed rules would be consolidated into one vote or if lawmakers would have the opportunity to vote on each individual rule. He said he was hoping for two separate packages, but he doesn’t think that will happen.

“We’ll see next week,” he said.

Bishop hopes that changes will be made to this specific OSDE rule.

The Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition is calling on lawmakers to reject the rule entirely.

“Regarding the specific rules for school accreditation, even if the OSDE has some (questionable) authority to manage accreditation parameters, this does not negate the fact that the proposed new rule on school status Accreditation is bad policy for this state’s children and communities. they call home. The rules in question give the State Department of Education the ability to take over or disband districts based on a single test taken on a day,” said Erika Wright, founder of the Rural Schools Coalition of l ‘Oklahoma.

News 4 reached out to OSDE Communications Director Dan Isett with a list of questions, including what resources would be available to schools/districts that receive an accreditation shortfall due to this rule. He did not respond Thursday evening.

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